Living in Faith, Scripture Lessons, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

5 minutes a day to make 2022 different

“What will you do to make this season different?”  

Our pastor challenged us with that question — and a few others — during our 2021 Ash Wednesday service as we began the season of Lent leading to Easter. It’s a question I thought about quite a bit during different times over the next several months in different situations. And it’s bouncing in my mind again as we step into 2022.  

Clock image with text: 5 minutes a day to make 2022 differentOne thing I want to do is read my Bible more. I’m not just saying that because I’m looking for a New Year’s goal and it sounds like one every Christian should have (kind of like the adult version of learning as kids that “Jesus” was always a safe answer in Sunday school class). I’m saying it because it’s something that has settled inside me lately and doesn’t need to be ignored. 

Have I been reading my Bible? Yes, but it can be easy (at least for me) to fall into a habit of reading whatever key verses are part of that day’s devotional and leave it there.  

That’s a nice start, but if we really want to hear God and learn more about Him, we have to do more. We have to dig and think through some things ourselves.  

If you’re in the same spot but are antsy about “rules” or commitments, don’t let that stop you.  

It’s not rocket science and doesn’t have to be intimidating. It doesn’t even have to take hours of your time — just five or ten minutes is a great starting point. 

Here’s what I’ve been doing, in case it’s helpful for you:  

  • Pick a book of the Bible that you want to read all the way through. I started with the Gospel of John.  
  • Ask God to teach you something or show you something new in whatever you read. Then read a few verses, trying to really focus on them. Look for things you haven’t noticed before, or for things you might have forgotten from reading those verses at other times. I’ve already picked up on some things that never stood out to me.  
  • Write down a few of your thoughts or questions. The questions might not have answers, and that’s OK. They might things you want to research later, or might simply be things for you to think about. That’s the whole goal: to think.  
  • The next day (or the next time you’re able), pick up in that same spot and do it again with the next few verses.  

Isn’t it crazy how doing something so basic can help us build a stronger faith and know God better? But it does! (Author Lori Hatcher recently wrote a blog post about this – how taking just five minutes a day can make a huge difference. Read “The Best Way to Draw Near to God This Year.”)  

The Bible says that when we draw close to God and have the right attitude about it, He’ll draw close to us.  

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8 ESV) 

It also says that once we start looking for Him, we’ll find Him — and that God loves when people want to find Him.  

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)  

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (Proverbs 8:17 ESV)  

“What will you do to make this season different?” 

My answer to that question for 2022 is to spend more time in the Bible — even just a few minutes at a time — so I can know God better.  

What about you? How do you hope to make 2022 a different or better year? What things help you learn more about God or be closer to Him? Let’s share with each other and get 2022 off to a fantastic start.  

Happy New Year! 

What will you do to make this season different? Just 5 minutes a day can impact your life in 2022. Click To Tweet
Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Thank you for your service

I noticed the man several times as I made my way up and down the grocery store aisles. Old jeans, faded red t-shirt, thinning white hair. He was shopping alone, and I overheard him asking other customers for help finding things a few times. As I walked past the shelves of sports drinks, I heard him ask a lady about the difference between some of the brands.

“I know it’s a stupid question,” he said. “My wife usually does the shopping, but she just had surgery and our granddaughter is coming to visit so I need to buy the groceries.”

What a sweet man, I thought, and kept adding things to my own cart. When I was ready to check out, I looked for the shortest line — and ended up behind him.

As he turned to pull groceries from his cart, I saw what filled the front of his t-shirt: a gold U.S. Marines emblem the size of a dinner plate.

I am proud to be an American and am so thankful to live here. For years, I’ve sent up silent prayers for servicemen and women I happen to cross paths with. I’ve often thought I should thank them for what they do but — for whatever reason — have always shied away.

Until that Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago in our local Kroger.

One time when the man turned back to get more groceries, he glanced back at me and our eyes met. “Sir, were you in the Marines?” I asked.

He straightened and gave me a small smile and nod. “Yes, I was.”

I smiled back. “Thank you for your service.”

He stared at me, then smiled wider and I saw tears in his eyes. “Thank you. Thank you for saying that.”

He kept putting his groceries on the conveyor belt and finished checking out. Just before leaving, he turned to me. “Thank you again. God bless you, ma’am.”

No, I thought as I watched him leave, God bless you.

Thank you for your service.

I never imagined how much those simple words might impact someone. I definitely didn’t imagine that saying them would bring tears to the other person’s eyes.

I don’t know when that man was in the Marines or where he was stationed or what kinds of things he saw or did. What I do know is that he was willing to risk his life to defend America, if needed. He was willing to make the biggest sacrifice possible, if needed — and that’s the biggest gift you can give.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NIV)

Veterans Day here in the U.S. is Nov. 11, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allied nations that ended World War I. It took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, which is why many ceremonies held on Nov. 11 are at 11 a.m. and include a moment of silence at 11:11 a.m.

I’m so thankful for all the men and women who have been willing to serve our country and do what they can to protect it.

Thank you for your service.

Such ordinary words, but they can mean so much when they’re heartfelt. I need to say them more often; will you join me?


“Thank you for your service.” Such ordinary words, but they can mean so much when they’re heartfelt. #VeteransDay Click To Tweet
Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Restarting after getting stuck

A wasp is caught between the window and screen above our kitchen sink. How did it get there? We can’t see the slit that it must have slipped through, but some sort of opening must be there. Now the wasp can’t seem to find its way back to the hidden opening either, so it crawls along the screen, looking in vain for an escape route.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve found myself in the same situation.

Restarting after you've gotten stuckWhether I’m going along oblivious to the things around me or consciously make a decision that sends me down the wrong path, the result is still the same: I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be and don’t know how to get out.

Sometimes the thing I want — the place I want to be — is right in front of me. But like the wasp that can see the outdoors but not find its way to freedom, I can’t always easily find my way back to where I want to be, either.

I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I know I’m not because the Bible tells multiple stories of people who found themselves in a place they didn’t expect.

You might think of others, but two that come immediately to mind for me are:

  • Eve, who ate the forbidden fruit and then shared it with Adam (Genesis 3)
  • Jonah, who hopped on a ship going in the opposite direction from what God instructed and then ended up thrown overboard and in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1-2)

These are important stories and have lessons for us to learn, but one of the biggest self-imposed “stuck and turned around” stories for me is Moses.

Yes, Moses was a great leader who God used to get the Israelites free from Egyptian slavery and through the desert toward their Promised Land.

Yes, Moses had such a close relationship with God that they had true back-and-forth conversations.

Yes, Moses was the person God entrusted with the 10 Commandments.

But before all that, Moses was a murderer.

He was raised in Pharaoh’s household and many scholars believe he was being groomed to take over Pharaoh’s throne. But beneath the fine Egyptian clothes, education, and abundance of food and drink was a Hebrew man. As much as it may have seemed he was ingrained in Pharaoh’s family, Moses knew his true heritage.

One day when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, Moses snapped. Rage overtook him and he killed the Egyptian. (Exodus 2:11-12)

What happened next? Moses panicked, just like the rest of us would.

He buried the Egyptian in the sand and thought no one saw what he’d done — but he was wrong.

The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” (Exodus 2:13-14 NIV)

When word reached Pharaoh, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses escaped and fled about 700 miles east to Midian.

Talk about being stuck in a place he didn’t expect or want to be!

One day Moses was living the spoiled life of Pharaoh’s heir apparent. The next, he was a murderer. And then he was a fugitive trying to escape Pharaoh’s wrath.

The years Moses spent in Midian weren’t wasted. He met his wife Zipporah and they started a family. He worked as a shepherd for his father-in-law Jethro.

Do you know what shepherds have a lot of? Time. Hours and hours of time away from other people. Time to think. Time to dream. Time to reconsider. Time to repent.

We know that David used his time as a shepherd to connect with God and I believe Moses did, too.

When God was ready — and when He knew Moses was ready — He called Moses from his “stuck” place in a big way. Moses wouldn’t live the rest of his life in Midian as a shepherd. Instead, he would return to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh release the Hebrew slaves.

Moses wouldn’t hide from prying eyes and try to walk through life unnoticed. Instead, he would be front and center as the leader of God’s people.

It was all because God had a bigger plan for Moses and Moses was willing to follow.

It can be the same for us when we’re stuck somewhere we didn’t expect. We might be surprised, but God isn’t. We might not know which direction to turn, but God does.

We might feel trapped like the wasp behind my screen, surprised to be in that place and unable to find our way out (which it did, after a couple of days). But we can get out of our stuck spot. We can cry out to God for help and be certain that He hears us.

  • The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. (Psalm 34:15 ESV)
  • When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17 ESV)

And when the time is right, God will help us get out of that spot and on to the next thing He has for us, just like He did for Moses. We just have to be willing to follow.

How have you been reminded lately that God will help us get unstuck, even when we brought it on ourselves? Is there something you can do to help someone else see this for themselves?

Share a comment so we can encourage each other.

When the time is right, God will help us get out of our “stuck spot” and on to the next thing He has for us. Click To Tweet
Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Embrace the fact that you’re an encourager

I have always been a predominantly optimistic, glass-half-full kind of person. That’s not to say I don’t get discouraged or say negative things or sometimes play the “what if something terrible happens” game — because I do. Two important realizations related to this struck me a few weeks ago:

I’m not just a person with a positive attitude. I’m an encourager.

never feel bad about being an encouragerI need to own that fact and stop apologizing for being an encourager. And that includes no longer feeling guilty about looking for positive things when surrounded by negativity or stifled by the weight of situations. No more feeling “less than” when other people might think my mindset is ill-founded.

My ah-ha moments came while listening to a workshop from this year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Author/editor Lisa Crayton led a workshop called “Writing to Encourage.” And although she was addressing writers, many of the things she said apply to each of us as Christians.

Here’s one gem:

“We are the keepers of encouragement,” she said. “We have the Spirit of God in us to encourage others.”

The keepers of encouragement. I love the perspective. Those of us who follow Christ have the best news in the world to share and the biggest reason to hold onto hope and help others do the same.

God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now. Click To Tweet

Bible verses in both the Old and New Testaments tell us to do this. Here are just a few:

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  • I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (Romans 1:11-12)
  • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I know there have been times when people viewed me as a Pollyanna who doesn’t want to acknowledge negative things. They’ve looked at me as less worldly or less mature, as someone wearing blinders to the harsh realities of life.

And I’ve let them do that. I’ve kept my mouth shut or downplayed the encouragement or optimism I could have shared because of how I believed they would view it. Because I didn’t want to see another round of eye rolls or “she’s clueless” glances or hear the “yeah, right” huffs.

Their attitudes toward me are wrong, but so is my response.

I can’t control what they think of me. I can control how I react.

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. Click To Tweet

In her workshop, Lisa Crayton also said, “Christian writers are uniquely positioned … to lead readers out of their place of discouragement to finding the encouragement that they need.”

I agree with that statement 110% as a Christian writer, but also as a Christian trying to get through each day in this unpredictable world.

As Romans 12:8 says, If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (NLT)

Encouragement doesn’t have to come across as preachy or goody-goody or out of touch. I’m not perfect at it and there are plenty of times when I don’t follow through on an opportunity as I should. But I — we — can get better at it if we’ll ask for God’s help.

be encouraging to othersWhy should we bother? Because God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now.

It can be as small as telling someone you hope they have a great day. Or sending a text to someone you haven’t connected with in a long time. Or letting the person in line behind you at the grocery store go first because they have five items in their basket and your cart is crammed full.

If “official” encouragement feels uncomfortable right now, we can encourage from behind the scenes. Prayers lifted on someone’s behalf can do wonders, even if they don’t know you’re praying.

So take heart, fellow encouragers! I believe it’s time for us to step up and share this gift we’ve been given without being timid or intimidated. Without apologizing or feeling self-conscious.

An unapologetic encourager. That’s what I want to be.

Will you join me?

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. How can you see yourself doing that for the people around you? Leave a comment to share an idea and encourage others who stop by.

Be blessed today, my friends!

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